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Honored Heroes share their stories to let other patients know they are not alone on their journeys — because no one should face the challenges and uncertainty of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in isolation. Through their stories, Honorees raise awareness of these diseases, raise funds to support the Foundation’s mission and inspire hope in those living with IBD.

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Central Florida 2024 Honored Heroes 

Hello! My name is Sylvia Fiori and I was 11 years old when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis  at Orlando Health in Orlando. I had my first flare up in late August of 2022. I had stomach pains and was using the restroom a lot, to the point where I couldn’t go to school for two weeks. Nobody knew what was going on with me and it took a lot of testing and time to figure it out. In October I had a colonoscopy and Endoscopy . I was really nervous, but I knew we would find out what was going on with my body. A week later, it was confirmed I had UC. Dr Panday, my Gastroenterologist, put me on a Mediterranean diet in hopes that it would help keep it under control. I was also supposed to not eat any sugar or dairy, because it showed that my body could not process it. It was really hard to follow and it happened between Halloween and Christmas too! I am just a kid! Unfortunately, the diet didn’t control it and after another flare up, I started taking mesalamine in February. I have not had a flare up since started taking Mesalamine. 

I attended Camp Oasis last year, and it really helped with my anxiety and self-consciousness about not fitting in. I made friends at that camp who had the same issues as me, and I really think that it made a difference in my view and attitude. All the people that I love, my old and new friends have all supported me and I really appreciate that. It has made me feel better about my disease and I have a more positive outlook these days. Everyone who has an IBD has difficulties. For me, it has made school harder because the frequent bathroom trips make me miss out on important work. Having stomach pains is too common.  Making plans and sometimes not being able to follow through because of these pains really stinks. I always feel different from my friends, and a lot of people do not understand that it’s not just a “tummy ache”. I must always live with the knowledge that my disease can get worse, but researchers are always helping us by finding out ways to prevent flare ups and other ways to help our body. There is no cure yet, but I believe there will be one soon! And then, I will be able to eat cream again!! My doctor, Dr. Panday, is an amazing doctor and has been helping and supporting me from the beginning of this journey. I know that he will continue to care and fight for me and the rest of his patients until there is a cure and even after that! I really appreciate all of the things you have done for us. 

IBD’s can be very difficult and frustrating, but we can get through it with the support of our community.  And when we find a cure, watch out world! 


More than 40 years ago, at the tender age of 8, Rhonda embarked on a journey that would shape the course of her life—her battle with Crohn's disease. What began as an excruciating bellyache comforted with warm milk and honey spiraled into a journey marked by highs, lows, twists, and turns serving as a testament to her tenacity and spirit. Her story is not just a medical chronicle; it’s a tale of finding strength in vulnerability, of defying odds, and even welcoming a miracle baby into the world.

In the early days, her symptoms were subtle—an impoverished appetite, persistent coldness, and countless hours spent staring at a plate that held more challenges than nourishment. Misdiagnosed initially with a bleeding ulcer, Rhonda's odyssey with Crohn's reflects the unique and often puzzling nature of these diseases. A proper diagnosis came at the age of 12, sparked by a perceptive dentist who noted abnormalities in her oral cavity.

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation became a guiding light for Rhonda’s parents in a time when the internet was yet to be a source of knowledge. As she navigated through her journey into adulthood, Rhonda felt compelled to reengage with the Foundation. She discovered comfort in being uncomfortably transparent with the details of her experience, and was empowered to lead and inspire in unimaginable ways. Rhonda became a pillar of support, leading groups, mentoring, advocating, fundraising, and serving on the board in every city she called home.

Living with Crohn's meant facing a barrage of challenges—repeated hospitalizations, invasive surgeries, feeding tubes, and relentless flares that tested her resilience. At 16, doctors predicted she wouldn't make it to 18, yet she defied the odds, surviving her first surgery just before venturing off to college.

The illusion of healing in her twenties led to a lapse in doctor visits and medication adherence, but the inevitable reality of Crohn's caught up with her. In 2011, a severe flare marked one of the darkest periods in her adult life—100+ days in the hospital with no clear road to recovery. 

It was her husband's insistence on seeking medical attention that saved her life, and despite the challenges that followed, a miraculous pregnancy in 2012 brought a brief period of remission. However, the cycle of surgeries and hospitalizations persisted, leading to unspoken struggles behind a veneer of normalcy.

Today, as Rhonda stands, concealing an ostomy and bearing the weight of an ongoing fight, she refuses to let Crohn's define her. Her advocacy, leadership, and unwavering spirit are not just personal triumphs; they are a beacon of hope for the more than 3 million Americans navigating the tumultuous waters of IBD.



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